I am a nice person, perky and upbeat, and have a wonderful work ethic. I’ll always lend a hand and genuinely ask my co-workers how they are doing. I don’t gossip. I love hearing about their research. I even lend a confidential ear to problems they’re facing.
Still, I get sniped. Now I am not talking about to the death, but the little jabs or swipes that just wear you down. Make you second guess yourself. Micro aggressions that maybe even ruin your day.
What is with the abrasiveness some women harbor toward other women? I know on some level the behavior takes us back to our cave-dwelling alter egos. But now we drive cars and sip lattes.
This judgement doesn’t just apply to women in the workplace. It happens everywhere! Anyone ever be mommy-judged?
Yeah. It’s brutal.
Now how about this? Ever been at work plugging along doing well and suddenly you’re white knighted. Sadly, this happens to the best of us. White knighting can be helpful sometimes when men stand up for women who are being wrongfully attacked or addressed (wolf-whistles, anyone?).
Sometimes though, white knighting can be quite a downer. Take this for an example:
You and your other committee members are having a meeting. One of the male members tells other [female] members he has reached out to a particular leader about the topic and cleared the way for the [women] to progress. He has essentially done the jobs for the members…without being asked. He then suggests the [women] members get experience doing certain tasks as it is easy and they will have to do it eventually.
How about this one?
You are an educated person with 10+ years experience in your field, and you receive a lengthy email from the white knight about how you can improve your resume and prospects by being involved in various areas. He has already reached out to those area leaders to make a connection for you.
Traditionally women have been raised to be seen and not heard, and certainly to not “rock the boat” especially with men.
So, what can you do about all of the above? Lots! Here are a few of my favorites:
Stand up for yourself
Now, I’m not going to lie. This one can take practice. No, you don’t want to come across as crass or abrasive, but being assertive is good. Speak up and say, “It really makes me feel X when people do X. I hope you can see what I mean.” If this behavior still continues, take it further: “I feel X when you do X. We are each in control of our behavior and reactions, and I think as your Y you would like me to be honest with you so we can have a better Z relationship.”
Make it a party
Have others who experience the same behavior from the same person? Get them in on the party! Be open with them, using some of the statements above. Tell them how this behavior makes you feel and saying how you cant imagine it makes them feel good either. Some women are still stuck in the cycle of societal norms for women and won’t speak up. By getting them to see the light, likely they won’t accept the behavior anymore either.
Speak with authority
Cut out the language from your vocabulary that is tentative. No maybes. No I thinks. No perhaps. You will be surprised at the difference.
No, not your pants size! I’m talking about how you place your body. Body language has a lot to do with perceptions. Be small and you’ll be viewed as small. Lean into someone’s space, you’ll be seen as more authoritative. Check out Amy Cuddy’s TED talk on it.
Give credit where credit is due
Ready for another surprise? You will look more competent and intelligent when you support other’s ideas and acknowledge their contribution to a project.
Don’t ignore it
Please do not let silence be your agreement. Sometimes the offender assumes everyone is in agreement or everything is just fine when no one says otherwise.
Only you know what is right and feels good to you. Do not let someone’s perceived power affect you as a person. Do not allow them to diminish you.
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